Saturday, June 25, 2016

Blessings of Solitude and Silence

“… Though you do not see him, you trust him; and even now you are happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy.” I Peter 1:8b

I was a 28 year old missionary mom of two kids in a remote mountainous area of northern Pakistan. Nearly everyone living at the mission hospital campus was connected to the medical work. It was a busy place treating desperate patients. Not being a medical person and needing to devote my time and energies to our two young children I experienced pervasive deep feelings of isolation, boredom, agitation, loneliness, unwanted solitude and silence. It was as if I had been taken to the edge of a desert and pushed into it by some unknown force. I stumbled along trying to find my way through to.... I did not know what. Many hours were spent in reflection and meditation. I had little or no access to reading material, music CDs, retreats, internet websites, and no Christian programs on a TV. I had no phone communication with anyone. Most missionary women did not drive or bike around freely in those days or even go on a walk alone off the campus. I thought I would die of isolation and loneliness. Now as I look back I realize those years were a blessing in disguise because I had nowhere to turn but to press into God. It was excellent preparation for a ministry that eventually emerged and continues to this day. I became keenly aware of what constitutes the meaning of soul and intimately acquainted with my Creator. It was a “soul school” I would probably not have discovered any other way.

Now we are half way through Ramadan. The month of fasting for Muslims has a way of shutting things down in regards to visiting them. Years ago I did not welcome the abrupt change of routine but today I love the opportunities to be still, spend more time in prayer and meditation getting my soul nourished to give out once again. Now I know I need times of solitude and silence. Not only need but deeply desire for such.  In Pakistan solitude and silence meant dreaded dry desert time but now it means a spiritual feast happens. During Ramadan I have been reading Henri Nouwen's book, The Spiritual Life (Eight Essential Titles). This book full of rich insights would have helped me to understand the wilderness journey I was navigating when in Pakistan.  I was on my own with no human to guide me or explain what was happening to me. Thank God for the Holy Spirit who comes to our assistance when we are left bereft of help. Today I feel comfortable with times of solitude and silence for I have learned to treasure and anticipate the presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit. He prepares and fills me up to engage in front line ministry among Muslim women. It is in both wanted and unwanted times of solitude and silence that my soul is nourished and prepared to once again engage in ministry and pour out the love of Jesus upon my beloved Muslim flock.

Dear heavenly Father, You show me Your treasures in wanted and unwanted times of solitude and silence. In Jesus’ name, Amen.